BMW Group has taken 3D printing very seriously, incorporating it into its automotive concepts on a large scale. Indeed, it could be said that BMW has set the bar for automotive 3D printing, having used it for more than a quarter of a century. Far from slowing down at this point, BMW Group has made its intention clear to continue pursuing additive manufacturing intensely into the future, announcing today a €10 million investment into a new Additive Manufacturing Campus, to be located in Oberschleissheim, just north of Munich.
“Our new Additive Manufacturing Campus will concentrate the full spectrum of the BMW Group’s 3D printing expertise at a single location,” said Udo Hänle, Head of Production Integration and Pilot Plant. “This will allow us to test new technologies early on and continue developing our pioneering role.”
The Additive Manufacturing Campus will serve as a sort of pilot plant, developing the latest 3D printing technologies and making them available for use within the network. Work at the campus will include parts manufacturing for prototype construction, series production and customized solutions. The location will also serve as an interdisciplinary training and project area. It will be located in a building over 6,000 square meters in size, and will accommodate up to 80 employees and more than 30 metal and plastic industrial additive manufacturing systems.
“Our new facility will be a major milestone in additive manufacturing at the BMW Group,” said Jens Ertel, Head of the BMW Group’s Additive Manufacturing Center and future Director of the Additive Manufacturing Campus. “The team there will evaluate new and existing technologies in both plastics and metals printing and develop them to series maturity. Our goal is to provide the optimum technology and process chain, be it for individual components, small production runs or even large-scale manufacturing.”
Ertel also commented on the BMW i8 Roadster, the most recent car for which the company has produced 3D printed parts.
“With the BMW i8 Roadster, the BMW Group became the first carmaker to 3D-print a production run of several thousand metal parts,” he said. “The component concerned is a fixture in the tonneau cover for the soft-top.”
“The 3D printers that are currently operating across our production network represent a first step towards local part production,” said Ertel. “We are already using additive manufacturing to make prototype components on location in Spartanburg (US), Shenyang (China) and Rayong (Thailand). Going forward, we could well imagine integrating it more fully into local production structures to allow small production runs, country-specific editions and customisable components – provided it represents a profitable solution.”
This investment is only the latest for the BMW Group, whose venture capital arm, BMW i Ventures, has invested in some of the most groundbreaking 3D printing companies to appear over the last few years, including Carbon, Desktop Metal, and Xometry. These investments have made it even more clear that BMW intends to hasten the industrialization and advancement of additive manufacturing across the industry, not just within its own company.
The Additive Manufacturing Campus is scheduled to be open in early 2019.
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